North Island College receives innovation award

North Island College was recognized at the higher education awards in Philadelphia

“The Oscars” of innovation in higher education awards – The Reimagine Education Awards at the Wharton School of Business – were held last week in Philadelphia, and North Island College (NIC) took home second place in the Discipline Award in Life Sciences and Medicine.

The Reimagine Education Awards were developed to identify the most innovative approaches in higher education to enhance learning and student employability, and NIC was second to only Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, one of Asia’s top universities, which took home first place in two categories.

“Finishing second to Hong Kong University shows the quality of education NIC provides,” NIC President John Bowman said of the award.

“NIC’s Remote Web-Based Science Lab (RWSL) already makes learning science more tangible, accessible, and affordable to students across North America. It’s about the technology and the quality of learning.”

The RWSL was also one of the top 12 finalists shortlisted for an E-learning award, with universities from the UK, Singapore, Australia, Korea, Germany, India, Mexico, and the United States.

The only other shortlisted Canadian college or university in the entire competition was the University of McMaster’s Honours Integrated Science program.

A panel of 25 international experts – a who’s who of higher education and technology – judged 427 submissions from universities and enterprises from 43 countries.

They awarded the $50,000 top prize to PaGamO, a social game developed at the National Taiwan University where students answer questions to collect virtual land and wealth, and PhET Interactive Simulations, from the University of Colorado Boulder which uses animations to explain science to 45 million students.

The RWSL gives any student with an Internet connection access to hands-on lab experiments in real time.

Students manipulate lasers, high-powered microscopes, electrons, spectrometers, and more in 25 lab experiments.

“We’ve been developing this for over 10 years,” said Naomi Tabata, Manager of NIC’s Centre for Research, Technology and Innovation.

“It enables students in remote areas to access science labs online. It’s not a simulation, the lab actually exists at our Courtenay campus, and students are just operating the equipment from wherever they are.”

Balbon invented the RWSL 10 years ago to offer hands-on science labs for an NIC instructor in Bella Bella.

He has since presented the technology to the White House and the Association of Canadian Community Colleges, shared programming with the European Space Agency and NASA, and received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the US Department of Labor.

“We’re extremely proud of Albert’s innovation and we know he has many more ideas to come,” Bowman said.

“We expect he will come home from the conference inspired and ready to explore new opportunities.”